What is Depersonalization?

Depersonalization is a sensation that is indicative of various mental health disorders. When someone depersonalizes, they completely disengage from their current surroundings. This causes a surreal sensation that can have an impact on regular emotional and physical functions. Depersonalization is often experienced by people with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. People with anxiety, depression, insomnia and migraines may also experience the sensation.

When someone frequently depersonalizes, they may be diagnosed with chronic depersonalization disorder. In addition to the mental illnesses listed above, there are some other risk factors that increase the chances of having this disorder. Those risk factors include illicit drug use, withdrawal from benzos, withdrawal from heavy marijuana use, severe anxiety attacks, trauma and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

There are several different symptoms of depersonalization disorder. The severity of symptoms can vary greatly depending on the person experiencing them. Common symptoms include an out of body sensation, feeling disconnected, surreal and the sensation of being out of control. When some people depersonalize, they can have difficulty controlling their actions. They may also make out of character choices because they believe what they are experiencing is not real.

Treatment for depersonalization is often related to treatment for additional mental health disorders. The primary sources of treatment are behavioral therapy and medication. Therapy can help individuals learn how to manage and control bouts of depersonalization. There is no specific medication designed to treat this disorder, but some patients use SSRIs to manage symptoms. In many cases, a combination of medication and therapy is most effective.


N.A. "What is Depersonalization? What Causes Depersonalization?" Medical News Today (Website). (2014).
  • 10 Commentsby Likes|Date
  • How awful it must be to feel like you are literally walking thru a waking dream.  I have never actually had this experience but it would seem almost like an altered sense of perception like when you have a really bad flu just without all the physical parts. Am I wrong about that part? Is there physical sensations or is the overall physical sensation also blunted?

    I can say that I have been in mind frames where my impulse control was not good. I have done things I don't think I would normally do otherwise. Sometimes it is just an in the moment thing. Other times it is as if I get in a funk and things just don't feel right, after a time you will try just about anything to feel better and get back to the way you usually are.

  • I just want to add that this, aswell as a myriad of other symptoms, can be experienced by victims of severe forms of long-term abuse, such as narcissistic abuse and abuse perpetrated by sociopaths, psychopaths and other antisocial personalities. I, myself, have experienced depersonalization, dissociation and much more as a result of ongoing narcissistic abuse. This type of abuse, if it doesn't kill you first, will drive you crazy in a variety of ways.
  • We should always, in these forums, note the effect of drug withdrawal, as has been done with benzodiazepines. Big issue and often not directly addressed. Cold-turkey stopping is not good, trust me, but do you have to go back to drop the habit for good? Withdrawal effects are tough and somewhat maddening...
  • This post made me realize I’ve experienced depersonalization a handful of times without actually knowing what it was. Thinking back, it was always during highly stressful, anxiety-inducing situations. I would just feel like nothing was real, up to and including myself. It hasn’t happened in ages, and I’m grateful for that because it can be quite a disturbing experience.
  • This sounds incredibly scary, to be honest. I don't know what it would be like to have an episode of depersonalization and then come out of it, to realize you've said or done a whole bunch of out of character choices. I imagine it would also be scary for someones friends or loved ones who were there to witness the episode of depersonalization - I guess if it happened regularly enough they may be used to it, but I'm trying to imagine how I would feel if a loved one was acting in that sort of manner how confronting and frightening it would be.
  • I guess it is just a way to go numb so that you are able to cope with what you have been thru or are going thru. In some ways I think it is far more insidious afterwards when the relationship ends because it would seem more like a part of "who you are" might have been robbed. During the events I can see where it could almost be helpful to depersonalize, it can make it so you can think and navigate the circumstance from a much greater place of unemotional security. I wonder if once someone has had depersonalization if this isn't something that then becomes a default reaction when things are not good?  Like a learned response?
  • Never heard of this before either. These days we are submitted to so many stimulation and drugs that our mind simply seems to be collapsing. I wonder when someone responsible will look at the current situation and say enough?
  • After all my research and experiencing I am now starting to believe that "demonic possession" may be a kind of metaphor or representation for symptoms of dissociation and depersonalization. After all, it seems that people suffering with these disorders feel as though their self-identity is being taken away by something and as though their thoughts are not their own - like they are being controlled by something which effectively they are. I think this also ties in with Schizoaffective Disorder and Schizophrenia.
  • I would not be surprised to hear that this is something that many more people are dealing with then we may think.  It is certainly a serious issue, and really needs the help and attention that all other mental health issues need.  I do not know a whole lot about the mind, but it is interesting and a deep look into yourself and how you think might really help.  I can see this being a sort of spectrum with everyone falling somewhere.
  • Many people suffering from depression and even self-injury experience this depersonalisation. I read that that is why some people opt to self-harm since they can't feel anything anymore and they want to feel something. It must be scary going through something that. I hope more and more people can recognise the severity of mental conditions and the need for help for people suffering with these conditions.
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